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Joy and Sorrow: Gibran

The-prophet I was reading through "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran on my hike today. Kahlil is considered to be the third most read poet right behind Shakespeare and Lao Tzu. Gibran was born in Lebanon, but his family immigrated to the U.S in 1895. His most famous work "The Prophet" has been translated into over 40 languages. As you read his ability to paint with words you will know why.

Relax and read as Gibran waxes poetically about the connection between Joy and Sorrow.

~M.C

Joy and Sorrow

Then a woman said, "Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow." And he answered: Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. And how else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven? And is not the lute that soothes your spirit the very wood that was hollowed with knives? When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.

When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Missio Dei or Missio Moi’

Bad things
I was at a conference recently that had a powerful missional heart-beat. As for me, I am incapable of separating and dividing the functions of faith into nice little boxes that we all pick and choose from depending on our preferences. Some like to live in the prayer box while others dwell only in the land of the Bible study box, while others are barricaded in the social action box.

As I look at Jesus, he managed to integrate into his life and ministry all of the faith expressions that most churches separate into distinct expressions, and then try to make Jesus the poster boyt for whatever expression they happen to have, or think is the only right one.

The church, however, is most reflective of Jesus when we integrate all the various passions, instincts and expressions of our faith under a healthy missionality that comes from Jesus Himself. For Jesus His worship and actions all flowed from His purpose, so while He operated in many expressions, His missionality, or His purpose was the thread integrating them all into one. Jesus was not a poster boy for a social Gospel, a Charismatic gospel, An Evangelical Gospel, or a Contemplative Gospel. He was the beloved of His Father, and that is where the compassion that fueled His every action had its origin.

While it seems to me that God has established our prime directive, the reality that we need to have a "missionally-focused" conference tells me that we have missed it somewhere. Perhaps even worse, there are those who don't even see the necessity of the Body of Christ operating from an -others-centeredness. Instead, they see the church primarily as an entity to meet their own person needs and desires.

Which floods my brain with the thought:

We have a dead orthopraxy when the missio dei is subordinated to the missio moi'!

When the Mission of God is subordinated to the Mission of Me, we end up with a religiosity that is self absorbed, unattractive, and completely other than God's plan.

  • Missionality motivated by love gives us the incarnation.
  • Missionality motivated by love gives us Forgiveness and grace when we don't deserve it.
  • Missionality motivated by love gives us the Crucifixion.
  • Missionality motivated by love finally gives us resurrection!

But in church after church I see the missio dei subordinated to the missio moi! In otherwords, it is commonplace to see communities of faith so self-foucused that it has become a rarity for them to follow God's Spirit on a journey that puts their energy, time, and finances into something that doesn't directly benefit them. Then, viola!' we need to have seminars to remind us of the Prime Directive of missionality!

When we become better at justifying why we don't do something missional than we are at saying yes to Divne opportunities of "others-ness" our orthopraxy is dead, our love is selfish, and we have forgotten the Prime Directive Jesus gave us. Over and over again, Jesus directs us to a path of love towards all people.

As we love others because of Christ's love for us, and then allow that to be the motivation behind our actions and involvements with people, we have stepped into the realm of misisonality…we have made movement toward fulfilling our prime directive and consequently we balance all the other faith expressions that the Holy Spirit has given to the Church.

The ancient goal of spiritual formation was the elimination of the "I", or a self-centered spirituality. Instead, words like service, surrender, supplication, and sacrifice were the language and actions of a life formed by the heart of God. The ancients knew that the self-life stood in the way of the Divine-life. An emphasis on taking what God has done internally was automatically connected to extending that awareness outwardly to others.

The practice of humility, simplicity, prayer, meditation, even fasting were not to be an end in-and-of themselves, but rather portals to receiving grace and then the empowerment of the Spirit is within us to extend that grace. Today, we have become masters at taking a practice and creating a denomination.

Maybe a better way to look at it is by comparing our lives to either a bowl or a hose. For many people, their spiritual life is like a bowl. They paint the outside of their bowl so that it is attractive. They take it to places where their bowl can get filled up with all the things that make them happy thinking that "When I fill my bowl with happiness I will have arrived."

Many even fill it with good things like church, family, PTSA, scouts, and prayer. Then add a job, career, cultural toys, stuff & things, you name it, everything goes into the bowl of us. Then when we say to God, "Okay, I'm ready for you to fill my life, lead me, direct me and…guess what? There is no room left in the bowl for God to even wriggle in.

The empowered spiritual life is not about filling our bowl with spiritual stuff, it is about turning our bowl into a hose that becomes a rushing conduit of Christ.

You see a hose works both ways. It can pour out, but it can also pour in. Spiritual disciplines exist not as a bowl filler, but as a way to empty the bowl and then transform it into a holy hose that gushes with the grace of God and waters everyone it comes into contact with.

A hose simply becomes a channel or a conduit for what ever is being poured out through it. A hose really doesn't care about how it looks. only that it is able to maintain the dynamic force that is flowing through it. Similarly, our lives transform from a bowl of religiosity to a channel of grace when we begin to view our beliefs through a missional lense.

When we become that spiritual channel/hose, we are filled with grace, life, goodness, beauty, provision, promise, and everything that is encompassed in Christ. All of those things are given to us as we become willing to allow God to move through us. We create a blockage when we are self-focused, and the result is a waterlogged believer. We have been designed not to merely receive, but also to freely give.

Let's keep the Missio Dei in the pole position to our cultures infatuation with the Missio Moi' and I believe we will see God move in surprising ways!

Dei Gratia,

Monty

Powerful Prayers (vol. vii) “The Magnificat” ~Mary

The-annunciation

As we wind through the season of Advent, it reminds us that the darkness will not last forever, that God did and does intervene in our lives, and that the story isn't over yet…I thought it would be good to look at the prayer that erupted from Mary's soul when she received a message from the angel Gabriel that would forever change her life and ours.

The Magnificat… Luke 1:46-55 (ESV)

And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.

For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.

And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

___________________________

Rumination…

As I look at the average 14 year old-ish person today, I wonder if God could have found someone who could be torn away from their cellphone long enough to realize that God was inviting them to experience something beyond their wildest imagination.

Mary was most likely 14-15 years old when Gabriel entered and ultimately turned her world upside down.  She wasn't from a highly wealthy, political or even spiritual family. She was like us, and that is what makes the Incarnation so powerful. It's not about superstars or perfect ones…it's that good uses the unexpected ones to do unexpected things!

Beneath the urgency of the angelic visit, the bottom line of Gabriel's message to her was not only would she a portal for the Divine, but that her reputation was about to be destroyed… her fiancee' would soon struggle deeply with his sense of what was right… the Yentles of the village would begin to spin their tales of the newest unwed mother… and imagine what Mary's own mom and family would assume at the news that she was pregnant…

Who would really believe this unexpected truth?

In fact, Mary would carry this cloud of faith and pain all her life about the identity of her son. Her own soul was pierced as she stood at the foot of the cross, but she was vindicated when Jesus rose from the dead proving He was who she had said he was…but by that point, Mary really didn't care about vindication… because an encounter with the messiah changes the way we see and view all of life.

Here are a few things that Mary's prayer reminds me of:

1. Even when our circumstances are dismal, if we live with God in our soul, we can still be happy.

2. No matter what political, cultural, economic, or intellectual value we have or don't have, we are all highly valued and loved by God…that's the point of the Incarnation…God came on a rescue mission, not a condemnation mission.

3. God always responds to those who are seeking Him and His ways.

4. God is faithful to His promises…don't give up too soon!

5. God's kingdom is an upside down kingdom…

    If you want to be first…be last

    If you want to lead…serve

    If you have needs…give something away

    If you want to be blessed…admit that you are not in control of that blessing…

In this prayer, Mary taps into the truth that God is sovereign over everyone whether we acknowledge that or not…He is currently at work, and we each have our part to play in the Meta-Narrative of life. The story is not about us, it is about Him…however, how awesome it is to have a role in the greatest story ever written,

Dei Gratia,

Monty

20/20 Challenge October

2020_image  20/20 Challenge for October

The first half of the 20/20 Challenge remains the same; Spend 20 minutes of God-talk/God-time every day. This is so important. To begin seeing your spiritual, physical, and emotional life experience alignment with God, it takes a commitment to engage God’s presence. So take 10 minutes at the start of your day to align your heart with God’s… to let Him know you are available for whatever He impresses upon your heart during the day. Read the verse of the day on my blog, and ask God to begin showing you who He really is through the Scriptures you read. Then ask Him to impress upon you the who, what, where, when and why of the second prong of the 20/20 challenge.

This month as we pump-up our faith in the God’s Gym series, lets turn our attention for the second half of the 20/20 challenge towards building our faith. Dedicate 20 minutes of your month to taking a faith-infused prayer walk around the church facility (or your place of worship if you don’t go to SVA).  As you walk, here are some things you can pray about:

Pray for growth, unity, love, stewardship, clear communication,
Pray for faith, and forgiveness to grow within your church body. 
Pray against division, personal agendas, misunderstandings, and hurt feelings.
Pray for your pastors, church staff, ministries, ministry leaders, volunteers,
Pray for the marriages, families and individuals represented within your church. 
Pray for giving to grow within your church – for individual’s finances to more toward financial health and for individual’s hearts to be open to giving back to God out of the provisions He give each of us.  Pray for God to reveal to you ways that you might join-in on what He is already doing at your church.  Thank God for what He is doing (and will do) in and through you and your church body.

Now you need to SOUND OFF and tell me what God is revealing to you through this faith focused journey; I love to hear your stories! Just click the comment link!

Illuminate Deo,
Pastor Monty

Phil. 1:6